May 31 marks the end of Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental health groups all over the world have upped their game in spreading information about mental health and suicide prevention. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were an estimated 804,000 suicide deaths worldwide in 2012, making it the 10th leading cause of death.
“Because of the stigma attached to suicide and mental health, there is a lack of understanding in society,” reported SOS (Survivors of Suicide) Philippines, an online support group for Filipinos undergoing depression and other mental health issues. “But with proper education, there is hope.” To stop the stigma and help a loved one suffering in silence, here are the biggest fallacies about suicide.
1. Fallacy: Suicide is often done on a whim.
Fact: 75% of victims have shown signs of depression a month or two before suicide.
2. Fallacy: Once a person decides on suicide, there’s nothing you can do about it.
Fact: “Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, and most waver until the very last moment [between] wanting to live and wanting to end their pain,” explains save.org, a suicide prevention organization in the US. If properly approached, suicide can be prevented.
3. Fallacy: A deeply religious person will never attempt or even think about suicide.
Fact: “Religion and spirituality are not the absolute and only protective aspects that may prevent a person from ever developing clinical depression and/or possibly becoming suicidal,” says Dr. Rene Samaniego, M.D., a Filipino psychiatrist who specializes in psychosomatic medicine and cognitive-behavioral therapy. After Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren’s son completed suicide in 2013, the pastor advocated the importance of psychiatric help combined with community support, and not just prayers alone in dealing with depression.
4. Fallacy: Suicide happens only to people of a certain demographic.
Fact: Suicidality doesn’t choose its victims. It can strike any gender, race, age, financial status, personality, religion, and upbringing. It can happen to even the most intelligent, spiritual, and strong-willed people.
5. Fallacy: Depressed and suicidal people should just shake it off.
Fact: Most clinically depressed people can’t thoroughly explain their own depression and suicidal feelings. Like cancer and pneumonia, you can’t just “shake off” this clinical ailment. Forcing a depressed person to shake it off can actually make him/her feel worse.
6. Fallacy: People who talk about suicide are just KSP (kulang sa pansin).
Fact: Suicidal people feel hopeless and don’t know what to do. They have a chemical imbalance in their brain that makes them think and act irrationally.
7. Fallacy: We should just ignore a suicidal person and not take him/her seriously. Talking to them about suicide must be avoided because it could lead them to actually do it.
Fact: “[Suicidal people] are in pain and often times reach out for help because they do not know what to do and have lost hope,” explained Kevin Caruso, founder of suicide.org, which promotes suicide prevention, awareness, and support. “Always take people who talk about suicide seriously. Always.” This is important because you will learn more about their mindset and intentions, and allow them to diffuse some of the tension that is causing their suicidal feelings [via suicide.org].
8. Fallacy: Suicidal people and those undergoing psychiatric help are crazy.
Fact: The term “crazy” and other condescending labels stigmatize mental health disorders, which is why many are forced to hide and be ashamed of their condition. In reality, unless they exhibit actual signs of psychosis, psychiatric patients are far from crazy. “Instead of ostracizing them, what they need is compassion and empathy,” Samaniego says.
9. Fallacy: Psychiatry is only for the rich (“sakit mayaman”) because they exaggerate their problems and can pay doctors or therapists to talk to them.
Fact: “Emotional and psychological pain and distress are universal experiences that are not limited to a specific social or financial class or status,” explains Samaniego. Psychiatry is an established field of medicine, just like oncology and pediatrics. “The combination of treatment approaches such as medication and psychotherapy has become the common mode in current practice, and thus, seeking psychiatric [consultation] and treatment involves a whole slew of approaches and goes way beyond just ‘talking’ to the psychiatrist,” Samaniego adds.
10. Fallacy: Everybody has problems and gets depressed, so this shouldn’t be a big deal. Sadness and depression are one and the same.
Fact: “The way people lightly throw around phrases such as ‘Oh I’m so depressed’ leads to a sort of fluffing around the edges of real psychological disorders,” Lindsay Monroe wrote in Thought Catalog. The misuse of terms such as depression and ADD (attention deficit disorder) leads to harsher judgment on people who actually suffer from them. There’s a major difference between regular sadness and clinical depression. Sadness is a natural, human emotional response when something bad happens in your life, like a breakup. “Depression is caused by biological or psychological triggers, or both. Most depressives have a chemical imbalance in the brain,” according to Psych Central.
*Parts of this article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of Women’s Health Philippines and Cosmo.ph’s 10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Depression.
Crisis Line (for non-sectarian, non-judgmental telephone counseling):
Landline: (02) 893-7603
Globe Duo: 0917-8001123 / 0917-5067314
Sun Double Unlimited: 0922-8938944 / 0922-3468776
Center for Family Ministries (for spiritual counseling):
Landline: (02) 426-4289 to 92
Online resources for mental health and suicide prevention: